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Eric ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2001 - 12:02 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


I wonder if someone could help me with the following:

Why is the letter c lenited in "Ag gabháil cheoil", but not in "Ag déanamh ceoil"?. I saw both examples when I looked up the word ceol in the dictionary I have. At first I thought it was a mistake, but when I was in Ireland I came across Teach Ceoil vs. Fleá Cheoil. As the word ceol is masculine, I expect it to have lenition after the article an in the genitive case (an ceol, an cheoil). Or should one consider ceol an adjective here (this would make sense since lenition of an adjective is required when following a feminine noun)? Please help.

My second question involves the word uíbh (as in Uíbh Ráthach, Uíbh Fhailí). My dictionary mentions that it is a dative plural form of ó used in certain place names. How exactly should it be translated?

Last question: which Irish dialects pronounce ch as the ch in the Scottish loch or German Bach? Listening to Ulster Irish songs, I hardly hear this throat sound, but there are people on Raidió na Gaeltachta that pronounce the throaty ch-sound. Also, if one hears a person pronounce tábhachtach as tawaktak, is this a dialectal pronunciation or may one assume that such a person is not a native speaker?

Thank you for answering any of these questions.


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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2001 - 03:30 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A couple of quick answers.

Masculine nouns in the genitive following a feminine noun do usually lenite, as if they were adjectives (but don't do it with 'f'): fear céile (husband) but bean chéile (wife). Also, scoil phobail (community school), scoil chailíní/bhuachaillí (a girls'/boys' school), scoil cheoil (music school), but: scoil filíochta (a school of poetry) and even this (which I can't explain): scoil damhsa (school of dancing).

A definite noun in the genitive is normally lenited: seomra Thomáis (Thomas' room), iníon fhear an tsiopa (THE shopkeeper's daughter).

In the case of verbal nouns, the noun is NOT usually lenited, even if the verbal noun is feminine. BUT there are plenty of exceptions in all dialects, especially with very common verbs and expressions: Ag cur fhataí/phrátaí (planting potatoes), ag fáil bháis (dying), ag imirt chartaí (playing cards), ag cur sheaca (freezing), ag ól bhainne (drinking milk). In the last case, you would say 'ag ól caife' or 'ag ól tae'.

Generally, it is an advantage for anyone familiar with Dutch in learning Irish because of the broad 'ch' and 'gh' sounds, but the broad 'ch' is disliked by Ulster speakers, at least at the end of a word, as you have noticed. Other traditional dialects give it the full force. In the creole that dominates Irish Gaelic in Dublin, however, people pronounce tábhachtach as tawaktak. Neither condemn nor imitate it. Dispassionate linguistic observation is what is called for.

I'll leave 'Uíbh' to others.

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Eric ( -
Posted on Thursday, August 16, 2001 - 11:11 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Thank you for explaining things so clearly. These are the kind of things that are not mentioned in the text books, leaving people wondering if they remembered right or even thinking that someone might have made a mistake painting the sign on their building (which does happen, as I saw Gallimh on a road sign instead of Gaillimh and one minute its Sráid Chill Dara only to find that someone else thinks it's Sráid Cill Dara).

About the ch-sound: I am kind of fond of it (it is indeed a frequent sound in Dutch) and though I like Ulster Irish songs very much, next time I will try to buy some CD's with singers from other parts of Ireland.

Does anyone have any suggestions/names of singers to make my search easier?

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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Saturday, August 18, 2001 - 02:04 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

You'll see lots of mistakes. But did you look for a dot over the 'C' in 'Sr. Cill Dara'?

I should have been able to explain 'scoil damhsa' (school of dance/-ing), but I wrote that rather quickly. Now that you've had time to discover exceptions to the rules for lenition I gave you above, I'll let you in on the explanation.

I mentioned a rule elsewhere in the forum, that 'd', 't' and 's' are not lenited after an 'n' in many cases where general rules say they should be: an bhean, an ghirseach, but an tine, an deirfiúr (but an tsúil, an tsrón). Similary, Tá an aimsir an-mhaith, an-bhrothallach but an-te. Bhí an bóthar an-salach agus an oíche an-dorcha.

This rule is related to another that returns us to 'scoil damhsa'. That is, when we are dealing with genitive nouns 'd', 't' and 's' are not lenited after the consonants in the word 'dentals': bean ghlúine (midwife), but: bean tí (housewife), bean sí (banshee) (and bean feasa 'woman with second sight'. Remember the reluctance to lenite an 'f' in constructions like this.)

The 'dentals' rule also applies when we form compound words, which are normally lenited: comhfhocal (compound word), bangharda (a woman garda), taephota (teapot) BUT: béalsreang (the string on the mouth of a bag), cúldoras (back door), leasdeirfiúr (stepsister), spotsolas (spotlight). (I have read and heard 'spotsholas' from some Munster speakers, but I don't know if this was a dialect thing or people just being sloppy with grammar.)

Don't apply these rules to other situations like adjectives following nouns.

Can you stand one more point? You will see nouns that are not lenited even though they follow feminine ones in genitive relation: saithe beach (a swarm of bees), iall bróige (shoelace), finne gruaige (fairness of hair), do chuid Gaeilge (your Irish). Various categories of feminine nouns do not cause lenition: collective nouns, partitives, and those having to do with quantity, abstract nouns, etc.

There's more, of course. Study the rules in your books and note examples in reading and speech. Get the Christian Brothers Grammar when you have the basics down. There are other books, inc. Gramadach na Gaeilge: An Caighdeán Oifigiúil but you can get by with just the Christian Bros.

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